New Electrical Generation From Wind & Solar Is 21 Times Greater Than That Expected from Watts Bar 2
(prepared by the SUN DAY Campaign, October 2016)
[Editor’s Note: GreenWorld is pleased to publish this guest post by Ken Bossong, of the SUN DAY Campaign. Ken puts the startup of the first U.S. nuclear reactor in 20 years in perspective with the growth of renewable energy sources. To say that renewables are growing faster than nuclear is an understatement.
Yet the nuclear industry is likely to trumpet Watts Bar 2 coming online as a big triumph, and even turn it into a big PR offensive about the miracles nuclear power can weave for fighting climate change. That is, once the reactor gets past the series of equipment failures that has repeatedly delayed the startup since June.
Ken’s piece puts the whole nuclear vs. renewables debate in clear perspective. The Tennessee Valley Authority has spent 9 years and more than $4 billion to bring a 43-year old construction project to completion, when TVA could have used that time and money more productively on developing renewables and energy efficiency.]
As it nears commercial operation, Watts Bar 2, the first “new” nuclear power plant in the United States in more than a generation, is proof that nuclear power has lost the race with safer, cleaner, and more economical renewable energy sources – particularly solar and wind.
New electrical generation expected to be provided to the nation’s grid by Watts Bar 2 during its first year of operating at full capacity has already been eclipsed several times over by new electrical generation provided by renewables
For example, in just one year’s time (i.e., July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) as Watts Bar 2 prepared for commercial operation, solar and wind alone increased their contribution to the nation’s total electrical generation by an amount three to five times greater than that expected from a year’s worth of Watts Bar 2 generation. [see detailed analysis below]
If one adds in the net increase in generation from other renewable energy sources (i.e., hydropower, geothermal, and biomass) during the past year, the ratio of new renewables generation to that of Watts Bar 2 is even greater.
Looking ahead, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting 9.5% growth in electrical consumption from renewable sources during 2016 with further increases in the years to follow . Thus, the ratio of new renewable electricity capacity and generation vs. that from Watts Bar is likely to be even greater in the coming year and beyond.
Additionally, the very limited contribution to be made by Watts Bar-2 to the nation’s electrical generating capacity hardly seems to have been worth the wait. Construction of Watts Bar-2 originally began in 1973, but was halted in 1985. The project was restarted in October 2007 and finally completed in summer 2016. Thus, not including the period while the plant construction was suspended, it took roughly 22 years to bring Watts Bar 2 on-line. 
During the eight-year period (2007-2015) required to build Watts Bar 2’s …read more